Current Constitutional Reform Process: Periodic Replay Or New Beginnings?
Posted on April 12th, 2016

By; Surendra Ajit Rupasinghe:

The present constitutional reform is of interest since it comes after the end of a bitter protracted war that bled us all morally and spiritually. Instead of the values of love, peace, coexistence and solidarity, based on a way of life of sharing and caring, we were led to slaughter each other for territory, geography, power, dominance and supremacy. Each side promoted forms of chauvinism where the other was demonized, and the whole social order became permeated and infused with the ideology and politics of chauvinism- on all sides of the barricades. Innocent civilians and whole communities paid the price for indiscriminate shelling and bombing, being played and preyed upon, and by the widespread devastation and irreparable loss of life and livelihood. This war gruesome, at times barbaric, was a result of a violent fault-line fracture in the very foundations of our State and political order, flowing from  the dominant values and the way of life that it imposes and demands.

The people of Lanka have paid the ultimate price for a Constitution and a Political Order that have led them to an unceasing spiral of multiplying crises, indebtedness, poverty and insecurity. Most importantly, this process of State and constitutional building has robbed them of their sovereignty. It has left them without the power to enforce their will and determination, their decisions and aspirations, upon their political representatives, and upon the laws, policies, rules and practices of the State that fatally affect their lives and future. They only have the power to vote for the best candidate who can delude them most and promise them heaven and lead them to hell, repeatedly, while accumulating their own power, privilege and fortunes. This has been the bitter reality. But, after repeated betrayals and false promises, the people are awakening to the reality that for them to be free, they would have to take effective collective control and command of their State and society and so guide the ship towards the shores of universal  peace, solidarity, prosperity and happiness. The current constitutional reform process will be most crucial. It is like a laboratory for educating and illuminating the people as to the path of ignorance and illusion and a scientific path of achieving democratic freedom, independence and liberation, with truth and justice for all.

The Constitutional reforms so far have served to centralize political power in the hands of a ruling class elite that takes turns in operating this highly centralized and monopolized hegemonic State, as opposed to empowering, advancing and consolidating the democratic power and will of the people to exercise effective and collective control over their Land, their society, their community, their lives and their future. This sovereign and supreme principle and most fundamental right of the people to be the conscious architects of their life and future, has been effectively robbed by accumulated violations of human rights and democratic freedoms, and gross abuse of power. The Sri Lankan State is on trial internationally and internally for its failure to honour human and democratic rights and basic civilized norms of decency. It is in this context that the current constitutional reform process is unfolding.

Is the present constitutional reform process aimed deliberately, willingly and consciously towards a new beginning?  Of a radically thoroughgoing, systematic and systemic process of democratic transformation? Will it be a process of uprooting and reversing this historical trajectory of the State? A State and a Political Order that has become fatally infected by individualism, egoism, competition, corruption, abuse of power, based on perpetuating and proliferating ideologies and practices of religious intolerance, polarized class and caste hierarchies, of racial supremacy, national chauvinism and patriarchal bigotry and authority?

So, should we hope and pray that the present constitutional reform process shall result in a radical restructuring of the State, based on a program of structural transformation that would unite our people as the one indivisible Family of Mother Lanka. For this vision to be realised we would have to overcome all illusions, all misconceptions and ingrained prejudices that we have been nurtured by mother’s milk and ingrained deep into our sub-consciousness. Overcoming the roots and structures of violent division should be the top most priority, and the guiding spiritual principle of the constitutional reform process. Securing the accessible and enforceable right of all citizens, nations, nationalities, ethnicities, religious communities and social groups to enjoy a life of peace, unity, and solidarity, with dignity, equality, and justice- as the people of Lanka should be the transcending, overarching vision, principle and objective of any constitutional reform process worthy of its name. A house divided shall fall. A house united shall stand. Are we to build a new State on new democratic foundations and principles? Or simply patch up the fault-lines, repair the cracks, add new paint and curtains, while the old house is made to stand upon the same tottering, crisis-ridden and sinking foundation?

A radical reform process would yield a Constitution that would enshrine the fundamental right and  empower the people of Lanka to have effective and immediate control over their political representatives, guided by a code of conduct and ethical-legal practices deliberated by their own independent representative bodies. These independent bodies, directly elected and supervised by their respective constituencies, shall have the sovereign power and capability to hold their political representatives, and the State accountable and recallable for any and all violations of their human and democratic rights, and for violations of their life, dignity and security. Such  collectives of people’s independent interest group lobbies and constituencies should be accorded constitutional recognition and supplied with the means and facilities to carry out this function. I would suggest that a bi-cameral legislature be set up with an upper house to represent all marginalized and vulnerable groups, such as suppressed nationalities and national minorities, workers, farmers, fishing community, suppressed castes, and certainly women, with a veto power for each such collective advocacy lobby. This could balance the preponderant Sinhala majority and the self-seeking parasitical needs reflected in the lower house. Devolution of power must be coupled with sharing power at the Centre. Only then, can we begin to think about constructing a radically new and vibrant people’s democratic constitution as the backbone of a democratic State and a democratic political order worthy of its name. At the very minimum, religion should be kept out of the State. The PTA rescinded. Justice and reparations delivered to all victims of war. Transparent and credible accountability ensured for alleged war crimes and atrocities, including for those claimed to have disappeared. Release of all political prisoners. End to militarization and land grabbing. A democratic political solution that respects the right of internal self-determination of oppressed nationalities. The basic question is, who shall exercise political power and govern the State? The people, through exercising their own autonomous organized collective will, power and capacity? Or, by the wealthiest, most powerful clans who have a monopoly of power, wealth, status and privilege, to command the will and the fate of the country and the people? The current constitutional reform process would be a litmus barometer of the limits of democratic transformation that can be expected from the Lankan State and its governing ruling class.

Whatever it is, we should all be alert and conscious as to whether the new constitution would be a real break and a step to the future, or a yet another regular drama enacted to clean up the act, wash away the blood stains and scars, sweep all criminal violations under the carpet, inject the people with more illusions, and just do business as usual? Someone had inquired from a book seller whether he had a copy of the Sri Lankan Constitution for sale. He had replied, ‘sorry, I don’t sell periodicals’. Time will tell !

5 Responses to “Current Constitutional Reform Process: Periodic Replay Or New Beginnings?”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Constitution is changed to allow Indians to exploit Sri Lanka; for the hybrid war crimes trial to take place and allow for foreign military bases and support services. The only constitution changes people ever demanded were the abolishing of executive presidency and 13A.

  2. aloy Says:

    It seems to me that all these parliamentarians are diabolic liars;tell one thing and do the complete opposite in the name of party politics. Does the average person in the street has any confidence on them?. I think some patriotic ‘forces’ should take over for a limited time period, formulated a constitution in which there is not party politics and hand over to an honest leader.

  3. plumblossom Says:

    Is this guy a member of the TNA? if what this guy says happens Sri Lanka will be dismembered into pieces, and its existence will be in serious trouble It will be the end of Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan should protest against any change to the unitary status of the country. Sri Lanka needs a strong central government. We do not need any more decentralization of power. We already have provincial councils with more than sufficient powers being provided to then. I would like to ask this guy did you know how many people die at the hands of the LTTE? Thousands upon thousands that is how many. It is the LTTE leader Prabhakaran and his criminal gang who committed war crimes and the criminal who committed those crimes, Prabhakaran, has been punished. So learn to live with that.

    We need to demonstrate in our thousands strongly against any dismemberment of Sri Lanka on ethnic lines or any more decentralization of power. We do not need to change the constitution. We need an able and effective government that is all.

  4. plumblossom Says:

    Many Sri Lankans are gravely concerned about the TNA proposal to partition Sri Lanka into four pieces with a huge chunk (28% of the land area, 66% of the coastline and 66% of the ocean comprising the North East of Sri Lanka) going to the TNA racists and separatists as a merged North East federal state (but craftily disguised as ‘unitary’) with full powers.

    We are wondering why did over 43,000 both Sri Lankan Forces and civilians die at the hands of the LTTE and that megalomaniac Prabhakaran, if now, the TNA is being handed over and ‘Eelam’ so easily constitutionally?

    When looking at a GIS Map of Sri Lanka it is amply clear that most of the forested areas of Sri Lanka are situated in the NE. Do not these forests belong to all the citizens of Sri Lanka? Do not the same principle apply to the ocean too or even the whole island, that the oceans and the whole island belong to all the people of Sri Lanka? Mr. Vigneshwaran has ‘created’ a fake history (stating that Tamils lived in Sri Lanka for 2000 years). Yet, there are no ancient ruins in Jaffna, in the North nor any ancient Dravidian writing to prove these fake claims. History of the Tamils commence mainly with the Dutch and the British bringing in large numbers of people from Tamil Nadu to work in Tobacco plantations. There was the so called Jaffna Kingdom set up by an invader just prior to that but then Jaffna was only sparsely populated. Our question is, can people such as Mr. Vigneshwaran ‘create’ his own fake history like this? He is ignoring the many Buddhist ruins, Buddha statues, ancient Sinhala prakrit writing, the many ancient irrigation reservoirs built by Sinhala kings in the NE which proves an earlier indigenous Sinhala habitation in the North and all over the island. My plea to Mr. Vigneshwaran is to please be objective when it comes to history and archaeology and accept once and for all the fact that the Sinhala people lived all over the island for thousands of years and continue to do so. I would like Mr. Vigneshwaran to note that the provincial boundaries were drawn up by British colonialists for their administrative purposes with no input whatsoever from the Sinhala people and does not tally at all with the earlier history of the island which was unitary in nature.

    We are gravely concerned regarding the drawing up of a new constitution where due to the pressure of the TNA, the US, EU, UK, Canada, Norway, Sri Lanka is in grave danger of being divided up on ethnic lines into four, five or even six different pieces. Is this not crazy?

    The TNA proposals were drawn up by experts which the TNA hired from the UK, Canada, Belgium, Canada, US and the like? Is this not an interference in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs by foreign powers, even to the extent of trying to draw up Sri Lanka’s constitution?

    Can any organization in Sri Lanka go to the supreme court and stop, once and for all, the merger of the North and the East since it is critical to stop this once and for all? Can any organization in Sri Lanka also go to the supreme court and stop, once and for all the, dividing up of this small island on ethnic or any other lines?

    The only way to stop this madness is to go to the supreme court and get a verdict which would prohibit the merger of any provinces and to stop once and for all the dismemberment of this small island on ethnic or any other lines.

  5. Dham Says:

    “A democratic political solution that respects the right of internal self-determination of oppressed nationalities. ”

    What nonsense ? “Oppressed nationalities” are Sinhala people except politikkoos.

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